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Men speaking up

Men speaking up

What is the role of men in perpetrating violence against women? How can men prevent it? How do men speak up in everyday situations? Two speakers at the White Ribbon Day Luncheon on 25 November 2010 at Melbourne Town Hall tackled these questions.

The role of men in the perpetration and prevention of violence against women

Dr Michael Flood is the writer of the first Prevention Research Report Series by the White Ribbon Foundation, and his report was formally launched at the Luncheon. Dr Flood spoke about the role of men in both the perpetration and prevention of violence against women. He argues that it’s important for men to “raise the bar” for what it means to be a good, non-violent man. He also spoke about the need for all men to realise that violence against women is an issue that has a solution. One of those solutions is taking action in your own life, reflecting on your personal choices and actions in a relationship, and challenging your peers, colleagues and family where violence-supportive attitudes are voiced.

Speaking up in everyday situations

They keynote speaker at the luncheon was Dr Michael Kaufman, co-founder of the White Ribbon Campaign, which began in Canada in 1991. Dr Kaufman spoke articulately and passionately about the absolute necessity for men to take an active role in the prevention of violence against women. To illustrate the need for men to speak up against peers, family and colleagues to say no to violence, harassment or inappropriate behaviours, Dr Kauffman spoke of his work with a group of young college aged men in the United States. This is the story he told:

There were a group of young men at college who had been friends for quite some time. Every time one of this group had a birthday, it was tradition for them to go out to a strip club together. After years of celebrating birthdays by watching naked women strip and dance on stage, one young man decided that this wasn’t the way he wanted to celebrate birthdays. So the next time a birthday came around and his friends knocked on the door of his dorm room saying “C’mon, let’s go”, the young man simply said “no”. They group thought he was joking at first, teasing him and asking if he’d “turned on them” (decided he was gay). The young man explained that he didn’t want to go, he didn’t enjoy it and whilst he liked seeing naked women, he didn’t want to do it at a strip club because he felt that it was a demeaning and objectifying way to see women. One by one, the young men at his door began to voice their opinions. One said that going to strip clubs had always made him feel uncomfortable and a bit dirty. One young man mentioned that his girlfriend got angry with him every time he went, and he didn’t really enjoy going anyway.

As a result of this one young man speaking out against the norm, against a social practice that is deeply linked with masculinity in many cultures worldwide, this group of young men decided they would find another, more respectful way to celebrate their birthdays in the future. It is this message – speak out, stand up, don’t be silent – that is the driving force behind of White Ribbon Day.